Sunday, January 16, 2011

Graduation rate progress by area in Dallas ISD

Dallas media has often written stories giving false impressions that the dropout problems in Dallas are on the south side of Dallas. In 2008 that presumption was documented as being false!  That year the promotion rate, and potential for graduation, for high school students continued to be higher in the 9 Oak Cliff DISD high schools than in the 6 North Dallas DISD high schools. That was the third year that was true.  The difference had grown to one of 10.1 percentage points in 2007-08!! The 9 Oak Cliff high schools had 10.1% more of their 9th graders making it to12th grade! This measurement is called the promotion rate.

The promotion rate is composed of the first 3 transitions of the 4 transitions that combine to make the full "graduation rate."  The promotion rate combines the transitions from 9th to 10th, 10th to 11th, and 11th to 12th. The last step toward actual graduation is not included in the promotion rate calculation.  That fourth step with graduation data is hard to collect nationally on a consistent basis state to state.  Thus, progress in raising the promotion rate only points toward graduation rates also going up and is not an absolute predictor.  But it has been an accurate predictor for the DISD graduation rate progress in recent years.

The 9 Oak Cliff high schools in Dallas ISD continue to hold the lead over the other areas of Dallas ISD with the highest combined promotion rate in 2010-2011.  They have the highest percentage of their 9th grade enrollment reflected in the full ultimate enrollment for the 12th grade three years later. However, they are only 3/10ths of one percent in front of the 6 North Dallas high schools. It is possible that in 2011-2012 North Dallas will pull in front of Oak Cliff for the first time in 8 years.  This competition and progress is good news for all of Dallas.  In this process the promotion rates for all areas of DISD have gone up 4 percentage points, or more, this year!  Look at the chart below to see how all of DISD is improving.

Copies of the spreadsheets used to create the above graph are available.
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Sadly, promotion rates are the only calculations possible by school from the online TEA database. Due to lack of such consistent graduation data nationwide, it is the measure the national John Hopkins University "Dropout Factory" study was forced to revert to using, and which has been repeatedly mis-interpreted as a "graduation rate" by the press nationwide. The TEA online database, and all similar state accountability systems in the nation, must provide graduation numbers by school.

Annual enrollment data, combined with graduation data, should also be placed annually into one multi-year spreadsheet for each school and school district so as to show student movement. This only amounts to the annual collection of 16 numbers: Early Education, Pre-K, Kindergarten, the 12 grades, and the number of diplomas granted that year. These 16 numbers collected for each school and school district each year, and added to the same spreadsheet each year, would lead to a revolution in public accountability and transparency. Seeing the patterns these 16 numbers form, when placed into the same spreadsheet with the same 16 numbers for each year going back 20+ years, can tell you more about a school or a school district than any other single sheet of paper. Such spreadsheets help parents and politicians to better understand the meaning of a "20% dropout rate" claim when 50% of the 9th grade enrollment three years earlier is missing at graduation for that acclaimed "20% dropout rate" class. Such spreadsheets may eliminate such misleading dropout rate claims.

Such transparency is mandatory!  It is leads to public accountability that is long, long, overdue. It makes it harder to hide children who are "missing at graduation."  It helps people know that questions need to be asked.